Joyful marathon runners in a black and white photo. Joyful marathon runners in a black and white photo.

The Perfect Marathon Training Plan

If something does not challenge you, it will never change you, and when a person takes a marathon as a challenge, it can help you change your life for the better. If you want to change your life through a marathon an effective marathon training plan is a must.

A marathon is one of the most enjoyable but physically demanding sports out there. To be the best and professional in this sport, one must follow a proper marathon training plan.

1. Length Of A Marathon

A marathon’s length is about 26.2 miles or 42.2 kilometers.

2. How To Start Marathon Training?

At the beginning of your marathon training plan, first, make sure you consult your physician and be sure that you are fit for a marathon then you must know about various elements like:

  • You Must Know Your Limits

Always make sure you do not exceed your limits while training for a marathon. A distance of 26.2 miles is a long way to go, which causes a high risk of injury.

  • Take an Early Start

Prefer to start your marathon training plan at least 4-5 months before your dream upcoming marathon.

Sometimes we underestimate the length of the marathon and go for it in very little time without sufficient training. This overconfidence is the main reason for injury in this field.

So, prefer a longer time of practice with a proper run of 20-30 miles every day for almost 2 months.

  • Take Small Steps At The Start

Do not rush into running for 20 or 30 miles at the beginning of your marathon training plan. Take your baby steps at the start by running shorter races of 3ks or 5ks. Build your proper stamina, take a healthy and balanced diet, and maintain good health.

3. Selecting Your First Marathon

track race start action photo
Photo by Braden Collum on Unsplash

Marathons are not an easy run. So before running for marathons prefer to run some shorter races it would help you to boost your stamina and willpower.

Be a part of various marathon programs to get a wider picture of what a marathon is.

While choosing a marathon, you must consider your comfort and what factor would boost your energy, willpower, and confidence.

Marathon when chosen near your home gives you the advantage of running on familiar roads and avoids any risk or surprise factor.

Running at a destination marathon might give your energy a boost as it can raise your motivation to prove yourself and shine at a new place.

The excitement of running in a new place can even give you an advantage in your willpower and make you give your everything to the sport.

4. Marathon Training Plan

Your perfect marathon training plan is made up of different types of running courses. These courses are divided into four different categories:

4.1. Base Running Capacity

When you begin your marathon training plan, the very first step is to make your base running capacity1. Mostly a marathon training plan is for 12-20 weeks.

During this period the runner follows a proper training schedule of running so that the runner can build a weekly mileage2 of up to 50 miles till the end of its training.

Follow a proper training guide of around three to five runs per week. It would help you to build proper stamina for your run.

When you are building your base running capacity make sure you do not increase weekly mileage by more than 10 percent each week.

4.2. Long Run

The very next step in your marathon training plan, after you build your base running capacity, is that you must focus on your long-run pace.

A long run must be done in the interval of every 7-10 days under which you must increase your long run by one or two miles.

After a few weeks come back a few miles so that you do not face any serious injury. Usually, all the marathon training plans last a long run of 20 miles.

So that extra 6 miles come at the time of the marathon because of your proper training schedule and proper body health.

4.3. Speed Work

Something extra or optional will be a beneficiary only not a burden or a mistake. So, speed work is that extra or optional element in your perfect training program.

It helps in increasing your workout capacity and makes the most difficult runs a piece of cake for you.

The best and most popular forms of speed work are intervals and tempo runs.

Intervals:  Interval run is about sprinting a short distance with your maximum speed and then slow jogging or walking in between and then continuing at the same speed.

E.g., running 4 miles in which 1 or 2 miles at full speed and walking or slow jogging in the rest of the distance.

Tempo Runs: Tempo runs are generally longer than interval runs. If an interval run is a maximum of 4 miles then a tempo run would lie between 4-10 miles.

This workout is about running at a challenging speed but a sustainable pace. It helps in teaching our body and brain to work at a challenging pace but with sustainability.

Do not forget to warm up before your run and relax after it ends.

4.4. Rest And Recovery

Rest is an essential part of the marathon training plan. No one wants an injury just before the big day. So, rest days are a must in any marathon training program.

Rest days mean no running at all. Still, if a person is not able to resist doing any activity then go for any cross-training like cycling, swimming, lifting weights, yoga, and anything except for high-impact training like running.

Before your big day make sure you take proper rest and do not run to your full strength. Make sure you reduce your pace and scale back your overall mileage and difficulty of your runs.

5. Fueling And Hydration While Your Run

5.1. Fueling

assorted fresh vegetable juices
Image by Photo Mix from Pixabay

It is probably seen when runners hit the maximum mark in a marathon, they get exhausted, and as it is said they hit the wall.

There is a limit to the storage of glycogen3 in your body. The glycogen is the most important source of energy in your body during a marathon.

The level of glycogen is the energy source that mainly decreases during your marathon. And when it happens you will your muscles being heavy and tired.

To make sure you do not hit the wall at the end of the marathon take some of the energy drinks or chews or glucose while you run a marathon.

A few pieces of fruit and energy can also work for your body. Make sure you take in approx. 60 grams of carbohydrates per hour while running a marathon for more than two hours.

Caution: Make sure you test all the energy elements while practicing for the marathon. It would make you aware of how the energy elements would react inside your body while you run your marathon.

5.2. Hydration

clear water bottles blue caps
Image by Hans from Pixabay

Mostly all the marathons provide water stations. But if you want you can even carry your water on race day through a hydration pack or belt.

Make sure you practice before your big day with your belt. Do not try any new things on your marathon day. It might cost you your win.

Do not hydrate yourself because of your madness to win the marathon. Health comes first, and no one likes an injury with would not let you enjoy your win. Having the desire to win is good, but does not cost it your health.

6. Big Day Tips

Before going for your big day marathon make sure you have proper shoes and comfortable clothes which would not make your trip. Please do not take any risk by trying anything new on your big day it might cost you your win.

Before The Race

  • Hydrate your body well before the race for a few weeks so that you do not exhaust yourself halfway due to dehydration.
  • A few hours before the race, make sure you have a simple high-carbohydrate breakfast.4 Some examples of a perfect breakfast before your marathon are Bagels, oatmeal, bars, and fruits.
  • Apply Vaseline or any other body gel or lotion to the parts where you scratch the most to avoid any redness or rashes during the race.
  • Be there at the starting line as early as you can so that you can avoid being stuck in the crowd and struggling for your favorite position.
  • The temperature always rises while you are running so do not wear many clothes. If the weather is very cold then wear a baggy cloth over your running clothes and remove it when you feel that the weather is suitable and the temperature has increased for you.
  • If you have a habit of running with music the very first thing is to make sure that personal music is allowed in this marathon or not.
  • Running with headphones on can be very dangerous, so better to avoid wearing them. But if you still want to then make sure your volume is not too loud so that you can hear the voices around.

During The Race

marathon training plan
Photo by Abdur Ahmanus on Unsplash
  • Give your marathon a slow start. The biggest mistake and reason for losing a runner is giving your marathon a speedy start.
  • You have a long way to go in which you will get tons of chances to cover up and win but if you give a speedy start to your marathon then you might end up exhausted and losing.
  • Do not waste your time on drinking stations. Either practice drinking water while running or spare a few seconds at a few stops while running.
  • Make sure you do not get stuck in bathroom lines and lose your time. Better control and stop where the bathroom line is not too long.
  • Enjoy your running and feel the vibe of the spectators. Anything done with full enjoyment, and your full effort always provides you with a perfect result.

7. Conclusion

To give your marathon career a boost, make sure you apply to run in the Boston Marathon. Proper sleep, a balanced diet, and a proper check of injuries are the key to a perfect marathon training plan.

  • FIRST’s Run Less, Run Faster.
  • Jeff Galloway’s Marathon – You Can Do It!
  • Hanson’s Marathon Method.
  • Hal Higdon’s Ultimate Training Guide.
  • Jack Daniels’ Running Formula.
  • Pfitzinger’s Advanced Marathoning.
  • Waitz’s Run your first marathon.


1. How long is a typical marathon training plan?

A. Marathon training plans typically range from 12 to 20 weeks, depending on the runner’s fitness level and experience. Beginners might opt for longer plans to gradually build endurance and avoid injury.

2. Do I need prior running experience to follow a marathon training plan?

A. While prior running experience can be helpful, many marathon training plans cater to runners of all levels, including beginners. Some plans might include a base-building phase to help newcomers gradually build up their running capacity.

3. What are the key components of a marathon training plan?

A. A marathon training plan typically includes a mix of long runs, speed workouts, tempo runs, rest days, and cross-training activities. The plan gradually increases mileage and intensity to prepare the body for the demands of the marathon.

Read more

  1. Costill, David L. “What Research Tells the Coach About Distance Running.” (1968). ↩︎
  2. Penney, Stacey, C. E. S. NASM-CPT, and FNS PES. “Running Pain: When Mileage and Dysfunction Meet.” ↩︎
  3. Roach, Peter J. “Glycogen and its metabolism.” Current molecular medicine 2.2 (2002): 101-120. ↩︎
  4. Williams, Clyde, and David Lamb. “Does a high-carbohydrate breakfast improve performance.” Sport Sci Exch 21 (2008): 1-8. ↩︎


Shrujal Kapoor

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